The overall objective of the PHArA-ON project is to provide support for Europe’s ageing population by integrating digital services, devices, and tools into open platforms that can be readily deployed while maintaining the dignity of older adults and enhancing their independence, safety, and capabilities. The project will utilise a range of digital tools including connected devices (e.g., the Internet of Things, IoT), artificial intelligence, robotics, cloud and edge computing, smart wearables, big data, and intelligent analytics that will be integrated to provide personalised and optimised health care delivery.
Interview Victoria Bueno (UPCT) – Project PHARAON
Universidad Politécnica de Cartagena
How can your European research project help society now or in the future?
Pharaon’s goal is to change the healthcare paradigm and redirect it towards preventive follow-up. To this end, it is proposed to use ICTs in order to non-intrusively monitor vital signs, clinical data, routines, and even electrical consumption of patients, so that a chronic disease can be monitored, or old age-related ailments from a much more active perspective, involving all actors: patients, caregivers and health professionals.
The project consists of 6 pilots in 5 countries of the European Union, two of the pilots in Spain. In our region a pilot is being carried out with a technologically very advanced system, fruit of a close collaboration between the Murcian Health Service, Indra Minsait, Cetem, MIWEnergía, Robotnik and the UPCT. Users of the system are offered a tool accessible from the mobile, tablet or personal computer with friendly interfaces for their daily use, being able to access at all times monitored data, historical, generate alarms, etc., always prior authentication. In this sense it should be noted that at all times the privacy, confidentiality and integrity of people and their data is ensured, complying with the LOPD.
The preventive monitoring of this pioneering solution helps, among other things, to detect in time anomalies that could lead to a major health problem. It helps professionals understand more broadly the reason for patients’ clinical data, making recommendations and follow-up plans with deeper knowledge.
the solution proposed in this project has a great impact on society, especially on the elderly, more vulnerable to the digital divide and everything that goes with growing: loneliness, lack of activity, chronic ailments, etc. This solution empowers patients, helps their caregivers, all become an active part of disease monitoring, recognize possible anomalies, participate and work on the improvement of indicators and engage positively in the recommendations of professionals.
This work is undoubtedly a great commitment to active and healthy ageing, one of the lines marked as strategic by the European Commission in the new Horizon Europe programme.
How is research done on this topic? What kind of results are obtained?
The research is done collaborating with all the agents involved in the development of the final solution. In this case it is about working with patients, caregivers, health professionals, local, regional and state health and care services, companies and technology centers and the University. It is a collaborative work where everyone has to contribute their knowledge to perform a complete work: state of the art, specification of requirements, use cases, solution architecture, technologies involved, impact and ethics, data security, interoperability, etc.
The results are tangible and intangible.
On the tangibles stand out two: on the one hand the technological solution itself. It is possible to deploy in the home of patients an e-health environment with furniture, appliances and small smart gadgets. Your home becomes an intelligent environment through the use of innovative technologies such as the Internet of Things, Cloud Computing, Big Data and Machine Learning; all this in a non-invasive way, creating a unique ecosystem in the Region of Murcia, where patients and the Murciano Health Service are more connected than ever, and the patient is at the center of proactive control of their health and illness.
The return on investment is another tangible result. Greater control of chronic, physical and psychological ailments of the elderly results in fewer visits to primary care and emergencies, fewer invasive follow-up and diagnostic tests, etc.
As intangible results are all those derived from the satisfaction of patients, caregivers, and health professionals. Patients will have a greater knowledge and empowerment of themselves and with their disease, will reduce the digital divide in the elderly, greater satisfaction with health services, having a more personalized attention, etc.
From the point of view of health professionals, the paradigm of care for patients changes, which until now was under a monitoring marked by a periodicity or reactive form, that is, when pain, discomfort or the problem arises.
By reducing primary care and specialty consultations, health professionals can spend more time delving into patient histories, accessing historical, graphic data, setting alarms and attending to those that have happened, with direct contact with the patient and their caregivers.
How’s your work team?
They are a large part of the members of the GIRTEL Research Group of the UPCT. They are all doctors in Engineering, from different branches related to Telecommunications, Informatics and Electronics, and with extensive knowledge in new technologies. All have a great research activity, which helps to deepen the state of the art, trends, needs, technologies, requirements, standards and development. We rely heavily on other project partners with socio-health or technical profiles but from fields other than our own. We are more than 40 European partners, more than 120 people working every day on a very ambitious project. We have all made Pharaon a reality, and in particular the Spanish partners of the Murciano Pilot, who have worked tirelessly to integrate an innovative and unique technological solution in Spain, in the Murciano Health Service.
What challenges do you face for the future?
At the research level, the current pilot will provide us with a lot of data that will serve to train artificial intelligence algorithms that will help predict trends, the probability of generating diseases, and also to make personalized recommendations of healthy habits and life.
On the other hand, we hope to be able to incorporate new non-invasive devices into the system to obtain clinical measurements from patients in their homes. These devices must be compatible with international standards in order to be integrated into the final solution.
In the short term we would also like to extend the pilot to professionals and patients of other profiles. Right now we are working with cardiology professionals, and patients with chronic heart-related ailments, specifically Chronic Heart Failure. We have focused on 150 patients, their caregivers and a significant number of health professionals. The monitoring scenario is patients’ homes and several nursing homes. We want to expand the numbers and extend the solution to the largest number of people.
The biggest challenge will be the interoperability of the proposed system with the other solutions of the European pilots of the project. We are working on an ecosystem platform of the systems developed in each pilot, very ambitious and at the same time pioneering in Europe.
Why is it important for people to support and institutions to fund research projects like this?
In developed or developing countries, research activities generate knowledge and solutions for transformation and development processes. The Pharaon project is a clear example of how resources and funding in research projects translate into results and solutions of direct application for the benefit of society. That is why it is necessary that people echo this type of financing actions are, without any doubt, an example of medium-term investment for the progress of our country and for the improvement of people’s quality of life.
We must create awareness that the taxes that we all pay not only serve to maintain public infrastructures and institutions, but are also used to generate knowledge and provide solutions to people’s real needs. At the University we are aware that, with our work, we must give back to society everything it does for us.